UN: North Europe radiation likely linked to reactor

The UN nuclear agency said on Friday that slightly elevated levels of radioactivity recently detected in northern Europe were likely related to a nuclear reactor that was either operating or undergoing maintenance, but it's still unclear where it is located, news wires reported.

Estonia, Finland and Sweden last week measured higher-than-usual levels of ruthenium and caesium isotopes and detected some other artificial radionuclides. They said nothing on their territory had happened to explain their presence, as did more than 40 other countries that volunteered information to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Vienna-based UN agency said it “ruled out that the release was related to the improper handling of a radioactive source.” “It was also unlikely to be linked to a nuclear fuel processing plant, a spent fuel pool or to the use of radiation in industry or medicine,” it said. The agency stressed anew that the concentrations of the particles in the air were very low and posed no risk to human health or the environment.

The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said a week ago that the isotopes may be from a source in Russia and “may indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant.” Russia’s state nuclear power operator, however, said the two nuclear power plants in northwestern Russia haven’t reported any problems.

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